“With the options we make available to the riders, we have introduced a variant that did not exist before: a strategy.” The speaker is Nicola Goubert, head of Michelin at the GPs, responding to the question that giving the riders three rear tires options and many more front options is not to complicating things, and making things too complicated for themselves.
“With the options we make available to the riders, we have introduced a variant that did not exist before: a strategy”, Nicolas Goubert
It’s akin to paying the price for excellence, which is what the French manufacturer is basically doing by offering nine different tire variants. With the previous supplier Bridgestone, doubts did not exist. It’s true that on paper there were two options, but in most cases only one actually worked. “Yes, of course it was easier, but at the same time if a tire didn’t work for a type of rider or motorcycle, it was automatically ruled out for the race. Now everyone has a chance to find one or several combinations that work for them.”
In a surprising statement, the French engineer explained that this new format was designed in consensual with DORNA. When Michelin returned to the World Championship last year as the sole supplier, they initially followed the regulation of bringing two tire options for both front and rear to each race. But as the season progressed, Michelin began to bring a little something extra: a third option.
And this evolution culminated this year as Michelin made three options of front and three rears available to the riders at each GP. “I think the excitement and uncertainty of the championship exists precisely because there are so many options,” says Goubert. “Riders and teams have several ways to tackle the races. The strategy may be to push hard at first and then manage the tires, or vice versa.”
So here we are at the strategy mentioned at the beginning of this article, which has so often marked the script of the races this year. In Aragon, for example – just to mention the most recent race – we saw Maverick Vinales choose a Medium Front / Hard Rear combination that required him to wait a good number of laps to warm up his rear tire before he could attack. Though by the time it was up to temperature, it was too late.
“Riders and teams have several ways to tackle the races”, Nicolas Goubert
Something similar happened to Marquez as he fought in the front group on a Hard Front / Hard Rear combination against Rossi (who used Medium Front / Hard Rear) and Dovizioso (on Medium Front / Soft Rear). None of the three used the same tire combination! Marc had to pull from all his skill to not crash during the first moments of the race.
This “all roads lead to Rome” approach was especially evident on the Motorland podium, where there was no coincidence that the top three on the podium were Marquez, Pedrosa and Lorenzo. Marc won with a Hard Front / Hard Rear combo, Dani came in +0.8 seconds behind with Medium Front / Medium Rear and Jorge arrived 2 seconds from the lead on Medium Front / Soft Rear.
Hats off to DORNA and Michelin for the decision they took to introduce a third tire option for both the front and rear. It’s a situation that has generated more than a few criticisms from riders and technicians, who report that practice has basically become tire test sessions instead of sessions to prepare for the race. However when there were only two options, there was no choice; you had to take it or leave it. Now that there are three for each, it’s a problem.
It’s no longer just a question of going out and twisting the throttle. Thinking, analyzing and deciding how to race has become almost as important.
But the fact is that as things stand, it’s no longer just a question of going out and twisting the throttle. Thinking, analyzing and deciding how to race has become almost as important and will certainly be key in the final sprint that will decide the title in the most evenly matched season in history. Now we know what’s behind it. And in racing, there is always a reason – nothing happens by chance.